Thursday, February 6, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Tech company cultivating workforce with paid internships
Across the state, Mississippi industries are finding some of their best bets for cultivating a future work force lie in reaching out to college students long before they graduate. Bomgar, a software tech company based in Ridgeland, offers scholarships for computer science majors at Mississippi State University, a move the company hopes attracts the students to a future career at their organization. Founder and CEO Joel Bomgar said his company already is seeing a return on its investment in students. "We want the absolute top-tier talent here at Bomgar," he said. "Mississippi State turns out top talent. Unfortunately for us, everyone else knows that, too."
Mississippi State Students Earn Honors
The Southern Weed Science Society recently honored several Mississippi State University students and faculty members for their outstanding contributions.
Joint state tourism conference to be held in Louisiana
Small business owners and tourism professionals can learn how to translate tourism into dollars from expert speakers at an upcoming conference. The Miss-Lou Tourism Summit will be held Feb. 25-27 at the Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, La. "This year's event focus is marketing and public relations, with an emphasis on establishing unique relationships and trying different approaches to capitalizing on tourism," said Rachael Carter, an Extension economic development specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Center for Government and Community Development.
Registration underway for Master Gardener program
The next training class for the Mississippi State University Extension Service Master Gardener Program will begin March 4. The Master Gardener training program provides more than 40 hours of classroom and hands-on instruction and consists of 10 sessions held on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1-5 p.m. Tuesday sessions are held at the Lamar County Extension Office and Thursday sessions are held at the Forrest County Extension Office. Topics include botany, soils, vegetables, ornamentals, insects, diseases, lawn care and more. Class instructors include Extension specialists, agents and other horticulture professionals.
UAH gets $11,500 in planning funds for proposed industrial research center effort
The National Science Foundation has funded a University of Alabama in Huntsville planning proposal that aims to establish an Industry & University Cooperative Research Center site at UAH. In partnership with Mississippi State University, the proposed I/UCRC site would concentrate on advanced composites in transportation vehicles and require other universities and industry partners to join as members. The planned I/UCRC site would also allow UAH to act as a co-equal partner with MSU to perform related research. So far, UAH and MSU have the support of more than 20 potential industry partners.
Nichols is new Starkville police chief
Aldermen appointed Frank Nichols, a 22-year veteran of Starkville Police Department, as the city's police chief with a 6-1 vote Tuesday. Nichols, a lifelong resident of Starkville, worked his way from patrolman to police chief after joining the force in 1992. He graduated from Starkville High School in 1987 and holds an associate's degree from East Mississippi Community College, a bachelor's degree from Mississippi State University and a master's degree from Troy University in Alabama.
LINK modifies plans for regional development
A steering committee for the tri-county economic development engine established in 2012 as the Golden Triangle Development LINK has recommended making that entity permanent. The announcement made by LINK officials Tuesday means the initial plan for Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties to transition from the LINK into a private entity labeled the Golden Triangle Regional Development Authority will not be executed. LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said public and private sector financial commitments needed to form the GTRDA were insufficient. However, LINK officials can continue to reach their goals while saving costs, Higgins said.
Columbus biofuel plant to resume operations in spring
KiOR's biofuels plant in Columbus will likely be up and running again in April, according to CEO Fred Cannon. The Texas-based alternative fuel company's 500-ton per day facility on The Island has been shut down since the beginning of January for maintenance, Cannon said. "We'll take this first quarter to do a turnaround at the plant and do a lot of maintenance, as well as fix and improve some things that we've learned," the CEO said. "It's just standard maintenance. Any refinery takes turnaround at some frequency. You do a lot of inspections, for instance. Just standard maintenance."
Teacher pay hike clears House
The Republican-led House passed its $188 million teacher pay package Wednesday 86-26 after beating back efforts of the Democrats to increase the amount. Debate in the House lasted more than three hours as Democrats unsuccessfully tried to increase the $4,250 pay raise spread out over four years in the bill to an immediate $5,000 pay raise that would take effect in July. That amendment was defeated by 53 yes votes to 67 no votes along primarily party lines. Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, said Mississippi teachers are going to surrounding states to work where the pay is better so a larger raise is needed to combat the "brain drain."
Mississippi House backs teacher raises
The Mississippi House of Representatives passed a four-year, $4,250 teacher pay raise Wednesday, with the GOP leadership fending off attempts by Democrats to increase it or do away with teacher requirements. The plan faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has questioned its cost and said he prefers a merit-pay system for teachers. But Gunn said Wednesday he has gotten indication Gov. Phil Bryant -- who also has backed merit pay -- would go along with the raise if it makes it to his desk.
Bill would keep embezzlers of public funds off public payrolls
The state Senate wants to block any current or future public employee from ever working in a public office again if they have been convicted of embezzling public money. On Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill tweaking legislation approved last year to crack down on corrupt government officials. The bill from last year says government agencies or public bodies can't hire people convicted of government embezzlement for positions in which they would handle money. State Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, said this year's bill says the law would apply to existing public employees or future employees.
Appropriations Chairman: State Nearing Saving Limit
Ever since the recession, Mississippi has been dealing with falling budgets or trying to recover from the impact of falling revenue. But House appropriations chairman Herb Frierson says the state is now standing in the light at the end of the tunnel and is ready to step out. Frierson says revenues have improved by an unexpected amount and has nearly filled the state's various cash reserves.
Coast craft brewers oppose new bill
As the burgeoning industry of craft beer manufacturing takes hold across the Magnolia State, Coast brewers are concerned over a proposed Senate bill. The bill attempts to clarify the three-tier system set up nationwide after Prohibition, which directs the flow from alcohol from manufacturers to distributors to retailers. The system also ensures each tier is independent of the others. The Mississippi Brewer's Guild, a group of craft beer-related businesses, is concerned about the vague wording of the law and the potential for wide interpretation. "The department of revenue has not yet responded to our request for how they might interpret the language that is in this bill," said guild president Mark Henderson, who owns Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Kiln.
Colorful crowd marches for equality in Gulfport
Photographers often tell their subjects to "say cheese" and they can't help but smile. But when dozens of people assembled at The Other Bar in Gulfport for a march down U.S. 49, the photographer implored them to "say equality." They smiled, thrust hands and fists into the air and bounced with enthusiasm as they prepared to descend upon the downtown Gulfport office of U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo. Palazzo sparked the march of about 70 people with a post on his campaign's Facebook page in which he derided the Grammys for hosting a wedding of some gay couples at the conclusion of its broadcast a little over a week ago.
Southern Dems: We're not dead yet!
The past two elections have been especially brutal for Southern Democrats. This year is daunting again, as they face a difficult Senate map and have seen retirements already take a toll. But amid the gloom, there are brief flickers of hope in 2014 for a party long in turmoil in the region. Holding onto one or two of a trio of Senate seats up in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina would boost their bruised egos. And new opportunities in Georgia races for both Senate and governor are becoming especially brighter. Other beleaguered state parties haven't had as much luck, sometimes failing to even field candidates or running embarrassing nominees with checkered pasts.
More Men in Prime Working Ages Don't Have Jobs
Mark Riley was 53 years old when he lost a job as a grant writer for an Arkansas community college. "I was stunned," he said. "It happened on my daughter's 11th birthday." His boss blamed state budget cuts. That was almost three years ago and he still hasn't found steady work. Mr. Riley, whose unemployment benefits ran out 14 months ago, says his long and fruitless search is proof employers won't hire men out of work too long. Mr. Riley's frustration is widely shared. More than one in six men ages 25 to 54, prime working years, don't have jobs---a total of 10.4 million. Having so many men out of work is partly a symptom of a U.S. economy slow to recover from the worst recession in 75 years. It is also a chronic condition that shows how technology and globalization are transforming jobs faster than many workers can adapt, economists say.
HIV-cure doctor: 'Do hard things'
Dr. Hannah Gay, who was credited with the first functional cure of HIV, encouraged students at the University of Mississippi to "do the hard things." Gay, a pediatrician at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, spoke Wednesday at the Spring Convocation of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at Ole Miss. "This is a moving story for me," said Chancellor Dan Jones. "I have not introduced a better example of a life well lived than our speaker."
Delta State announces largest donation to univeristy
Delta State University's Robert E. Smith School of Nursing recently received the largest donation in Delta State history. In his estate, the late Robert E. Smith left $3.1 million to the school of nursing and said before passing, "I want to transform healthcare in the Delta." Smith was a graduate of Cleveland High School and he attended Mississippi State University and graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the school of agriculture. "Transformative" was the word of the day at the estate gift presentation on Tuesday. As Delta State President Bill LaForge, Provost Charles McAdams and Alumni-Foundation Executive Director Keith Fulcher spoke, the word was heard over and over.
Rust College sex abuse civil suit slated for 2015
A July 2015 trial date has been set in the civil case alleging Rust College knowingly rehired a sex offender who allegedly raped a student in 2012. The unnamed defendant in the federal case claims Sylvester Oliver, a 64-year-old former Rust professor, was asked to resign from the school in the early 2000s for inappropriate sexual conduct. After leaving Rust, the suit claims, he went to work for Memphis City Schools, where he was fired in 2006 after being accused of raping a student. He was then rehired at Rust College, where the unnamed defendant alleges Oliver raped her in his office while she sought advice from him in September 2012.
U. of Alabama trustees to consider proposal for new $31.4 million academic building at UA
The board of trustees for the University of Alabama System is scheduled to consider a series of construction-related resolutions, including authorization to proceed with planning for a proposed $31.4 million academic building at UA, when it meets in Birmingham Thursday and Friday. The physical properties committee will consider a resolution to begin preliminary planning on a new classroom building that would cost approximately $31.4 million and be located on the old Bryce Hospital grounds at the corner of Hackberry Lane and a proposed road that would bisect the hospital grounds and terminate near the engineering quad. The proposal is for a 72,500-square-foot, two-story building with a seating capacity of 2,000 with 12 classrooms and a large auditorium.
U. of Alabama celebrates Black History Month with art, lectures, music
The University of Alabama has nearly 30 events planned in the coming weeks to commemorate Black History Month on its Tuscaloosa campus. The calendar is coordinated by UA's Crossroads Community Center, an intercultural initiative through the Division of Community Affairs. Events run through the beginning of March and range from specialized tours of campus, film screenings and lectures.
Tyson Foods CEO, wife to give $3.2M to U. of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
Donnie Smith, CEO of Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, Inc., and his wife, Terry, have pledged a $3.2 million gift for the International Sustainable Agriculture through the University of Tennessee Foundation, Inc. The donation will establish the Donald and Terry Smith Endowed Chair. "The new faculty position will help bring science-based agricultural solutions to areas of the world with struggling agricultural practices and economies, as well as provide unique opportunities for the State of Tennessee," said Larry Arrington, Chancellor of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.
U. of Georgia's librarian, top economic developer moving on
Just months after University of Georgia leaders announced a new emphasis on economic development, the university has lost its top economic development administrator. Margaret Wagner Dahl, UGA's associate vice president for economic development, left at the end of January to begin a new job at Georgia Tech. Dahl isn't the only well-respected administrator UGA will be looking to replace in the near future On Wednesday, Pamela Whitten, UGA's senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, announced a search committee to replace William Gray Potter, UGA's university librarian and associate provost. Potter has announced that he will retire Aug. 31 after 25 years at UGA.
Peace Corps executive to visit U. of Florida campus on Monday
University of Florida students interested in the Peace Corps can meet the acting director of the international volunteer aid agency on Monday. Carrie Hessler-Radelet plans to talk about how Peace Corps volunteer service can be a plus on a resume, the agency announced in a news release. Hessler-Radelet will also meet with returned Peace Corps volunteers, the Gainesville Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Association, and UF officials, the release said. UF ranks among the top universities in the nation for Peace Corps recruitment. The Peace Corps also runs a program with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to send graduate students overseas.
The Tennessean sues over Vanderbilt rape case records
The Tennessean and a coalition of other media organizations sued the city of Nashville on Wednesday over its refusal to release records from a rape investigation that led to charges against four former Vanderbilt University football players. The lawsuit, filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, says records created by nongovernmental entities and obtained by the Metro Police Department since the June 23 incident do not fall under any exemptions to the Tennessee Public Records Act. Metro Law Director Saul Solomon said he had not seen the lawsuit Wednesday afternoon but was familiar with the media coalition's arguments. "We believe we have complied with the Public Records Act," he said.
Nine scholars inducted into Texas A&M Institute for Advanced Study
Nine nationally and internationally respected scholars will be formally inducted to Texas A&M University's Institute for Advanced Study on Friday. The academics who have temporarily committed to teach at A&M in varying capacities hail from other top U.S. universities, as well as from Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The group includes scientists, humanities scholars and others who have been presented the Nobel Prize, the National Medal of Science, the Wolf Prize, The Hubbell Medal in Literature, among other prestigious awards for their teaching and research. A&M hopes the TIAS program will emulate the Institute of Advance Study near Princeton, whose more famous members include Albert Einstein, Kurt Godel and Alan Turing.
U. of Missouri chancellor challenges students to make snowmen in his likeness
University of Missouri students had homework during Tuesday's snow day -- an assignment passed down from the university's highest office via Twitter. MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, whose Twitter handle is @bowtieger, challenged students via Twitter yesterday to build a "@bowtieger snowman" in his likeness. Students were supposed to take photos of their snowmen and tweet them out, including Loftin's handle or his wife's, Karin (@kcloftin), who is judging the contest. The winner of the challenge gets lunch with the chancellor.
Free Community College? Tennessee Proposal Draws Praise and Concerns
As policy makers and colleges grapple with how to attract and retain the growing population of low-income and first-generation college students to programs that prepare them for the 21st-century work force, a bachelor's degree, or both, the biggest conundrum has been how to do that without increasing the financial burden for either students or the states. Gov. William E. Haslam of Tennessee this week proposed a relatively simple idea: Have the state pay the tuition and fees of all high-school graduates who want to go to a community or technical college for two years. Governor Haslam's idea is not entirely new, and it's no silver bullet. But it is gathering positive reviews from many higher-education experts who describe it as a bold plan that could have broad effects.
Reaction to three states' proposals for tuition-free community college
Making community college free has become a hot idea. Over the last two weeks politicians in Tennessee, Oregon and Mississippi have proposed a tuition-free first two years of community college for their states' high school graduates. Higher education leaders have welcomed the attention, as well as possible new pots of money aimed at lower-income students. Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, said the proposal from Tennessee's governor, Bill Haslam, was "extraordinarily important." However, Hartle and several other experts said the funding proposals raise significant questions. They urged a cautious, thoughtful approach and warned about a range of possible unintended consequences -- such as driving students away from public, four-year institutions.
Michelle Obama Urges Students to Apply for College Aid
Michelle Obama told a group of high school students and parents on Wednesday not to let financial concerns stand in the way of a college education as she urged them to apply for federal student aid. "Fill out those forms, fill them out!" Mrs. Obama exhorted. "Don't leave money on the table." Mrs. Obama spoke at T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., a few miles outside Washington, as deadlines approach for college-bound students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as Fafsa. She made her remarks at a school workshop held to help students with the online forms.
BILL CRAWFORD (OPINION): Mississippi's sinking on national scorecard
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: "As we hear reports from Jackson about how the state economy and tax collections have improved, it's useful to glance every so often at other views. A report produced by the Corporation for Enterprise Development gives us such a glance. 'Treading Water in the Deep End: CFED's Assets and Opportunity Scorecard,' published in January, provides a state-by-state (and District of Columbia) scorecard that shows how well residents are faring. It looks at five categories: Financial Assets and Income, Businesses and Jobs, Housing and Homeownership, Health Care and Education. Mississippi ranks dead-last overall, down two slots from last year."
BOBBY HARRISON (OPINION): Teacher pay politics predates change in party leadership
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, says Mississippi lawmakers were arguing about teacher pay raises long before there was a partisan divide in the Legislature. Moak, who is the House's minority leader, began serving in the Legislature in 1984 -- long before the Republicans had a significant presence, much less were the majority. Then, Moak recalled, different factions of primarily Democrats often argued about the size of teacher pay raises. The last great fight over teacher pay occurred in 2000."
SAM R. HALL (OPINION): Southerner in Sochi: City will be left in shambles when games conclude
The Clarion-Ledger's Sam R. Hall blogs: "Mississippi State professor Dr. Skye Cooley is blogging for us from Sochi, Russia, as he helps cover the Olympics for a number of news agencies. On Wednesday, he turned his attention to some of the items getting media attention here in the States, namely claims of killing dogs and poor rooming conditions for media and visitors. However, he said it's the native Russians who have it the worst. ...Skye is doing a great job writing about his experience over there. His wife being Russian, he's got a great insight into the local culture. Bookmark his blog -- Southerner in Sochi -- for regular Olympic reading."

Bulldogs flip three on national signing day
Mississippi State added three names to its 2014 class on national signing day as prospects around the country faxed in their signed letters of intent on Wednesday. The Bulldogs picked up a commitment from Clinton defensive tackle Grant Harris and were able to sway Olive Branch offensive lineman Ronald Cochran and Bessemer, Ala., defensive tackle Cory Thomas away from previous pledges. Thomas' flip might have been the biggest news of the day for State. The Bulldogs had been a long time suitor for the 6-foot-5, 273-pounder, who had been committed to Tennessee since Nov. 11.
Mississippi State adds DL depth with Grant Harris, Cory Thomas
Workers plastered dry wall for the final touches to Mississippi State's football building on Wednesday. Back in the offices of the building, the MSU coaches constructed the foundation of future teams. The Bulldogs enjoyed more wins than losses on National Signing Day. The Bulldogs managed to pry Cory Thomas away from Tennessee. The defensive end joined defensive tackle Grant Harris of Clinton to form a solid DL duo. Entering Wednesday, Harris hadn't officially made his decision. MSU also added offensive lineman Ronald Cochran of Olive Branch.
MSU again focuses on state
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen put the finishing touches on the 2014 recruiting class by signing 21 prospects on Wednesday. Those signees join two early enrollees completing Mullen's sixth class since taking over the reins at MSU in 2009. The Bulldogs' class was ranked 38th nationally in the composite rankings which put them 12th in the Southeastern Conference. "When you look at the class as a whole, I'm not just excited about the quality of players we brought in but also with the character of the players we're bringing in," Mullen said. "That to me is really important with what we're trying to build here and they guys that we look for." In-state prospects were once again an emphasis for Mullen and his staff. Fifteen of the 23 total commitments in the 2014 class hail from programs inside the Magnolia State.
Mississippi State's Mullen pleased with class
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said Wednesday that his 23-member class will go a long way toward filling the program's short- and long-term needs. Mullen said he "couldn't be happier with what happened and who we got." The Bulldogs signed a class that includes several highly rated in-state prospects. "The class we have coming in will obviously fill some needs for us (immediately), and help us in the future," Mullen said. "That is so important to me."
Local football players nail down their futures
Wednesday was National Signing Day, one of the biggest days of the year for colleges and high schools alike. This was an unusually big year for signings in the Pine Belt, with at least seven players signing with Division I schools and numerous others signing with junior colleges. "This is the fun part," said Petal coach Marcus Boyles. Two Panther seniors signed Division I offers, including wide receiver Jesse Jackson, who signed with Mississippi State. "I knew I wanted to go to State from the time I committed," said Jackson.
Harrison Central, PRCC highlight Coast signees
Nine Coast players signed national letters of intent with Division I schools on Wednesday. Harrison Central led the way with three D-I signees, including cornerback Lashard Durr, who signed with Mississippi State. Once MSU offered Durr, he quickly chose the Bulldogs. "I've been going to Mississippi State since the ninth grade," Durr said. "Whenever I visited Starkville, it felt like home. I'm excited to go up there and play."
Signing Day: The Hot Fad in Recruiting Is the Handwritten Letter
There are more ways than ever now for college-football coaches to contact the high-school players they are recruiting. When they really want to grab a teenager's attention, though, they set aside their smartphones and do something completely ridiculous. They send a handwritten letter. n one letter publicized by a recruit, Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins had doodled a "can of swag," which resembled a 12-ounce soda with the Coca-Cola label replaced by "swag," a catchphrase popular among teens. For others, Collins whips up "swag-o-meters," a device that "measures the amount of swag that someone might have," he said.
Alwal, Mississippi State women host South Carolina
Mississippi State's Martha Alwal has shown that often that if she gets her hands on the basketball in the post, the chances of her scoring are pretty good. The junior center is second in the Southeastern Conference and 45th in the nation with a shooting percentage of 53.3 (130-for-244). During last Sunday's 80-67 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs, Alwal hit 7-of-14 shots and scored 20 points for the Bulldogs. It will take a similar effort tonight for Alwal if Mississippi State is to have success against the SEC-leading South Carolina Gamecocks. The tip at Humphrey Coliseum is set for 7 p.m. (Subscriber-only content.)

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